Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Jonathan Humphreys
Reviewer: Fiona Hannon
Romeo and Juliet must be one of Shakespeare’s most popular and most frequently performed plays and yet it’s more than 20 years since it was produced on the Crucible stage. This perennial favourite tells the story of two “star cross’d lovers” who come from opposing families locked in a longstanding feud.
Director Jonathan Humphreys has opted to use regional accents with mixed results. In some cases these work really well, for example Nurse (Rachel Lumberg), Tybalt (Jonny Holden) and Sampson (Shaun Mason), where they help to make Shakespeare’s language more accessible and familiar. Others don’t have the same success, and in some cases it is very difficult to understand what is being said, which is obviously disappointing.
The cast is led by the excellent Freddie Fox as Romeo. Fox conveys Romeo’s easy interaction with the other characters, respectful and charming with his elders and obsessed with Juliet. It’s obvious why Juliet would be immediately drawn to him. At several points in the play, he and other actors break the third wall and talk directly to the audience, sometimes leaving the stage entirely to sit among them. The Crucible’s thrust stage makes this exchange very natural and works really well.
Humour plays a big part in this production and Joshua Miles as Peter steals scene after scene with some wonderfully inventive use of props. Rachel Lumberg playing Juliet’s Nurse is another highlight, funny, warm, outspoken and protective and an instant hit with the audience who immediately feel comfortable and safe in her presence.
Hannah Clark’s design for this production is curious and leaves the audience uncertain about where and when this play is set. With bright warm lighting by lighting designer Lizzie Powell and a minimal stage clad in chipboard and corrugated metal, the feel is reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams play. The costumes seem to span the decades with fifties nerdy bowties, sixties geometric miniskirts, seventies dads in open neck shirts and suit trousers suspended from braces, an eighties jumpsuit with big hair to match and nineties dirty tracksuits. The music (for which there’s no programme credit) feels Eastern European and adds to the intensity of the performance, but also to the confusion. All this makes it impossible to ascertain where or when the play is actually set.
The feud between the great houses of the Montagues and the Capulets feels more of a domestic dispute in some kitchen sink drama. The masked ball became a frenzied house party, with the cans of lager lined up ready for consumption and the late 20th Century costumes jar with the long daggers worn openly on the street.
There are some tremendously strong performances in this production, but sadly some of the actors lack the necessary stage presence to fill this space. Similarly, the design is stylish with some great detail but overall lacks cohesion.
Runs until Saturday 17 October 2015